It’s weird being back here. I haven’t been back (for more than 12 hours) in about two years. Chicago doesn’t really seem to be a part of my present…sometimes it barely seems like a part of my past. So, driving past my old high school (although I only went there a year), going to my old church, seeing old friends…it just seems so out-of-place; so, not-me.
I haven’t lived in Chicago since I was 15. My parents moved away when I was in college. I’ve changed so much in the past nine years that coming back here reminds me of my former self (and not always in a good way). I feel like a traitor because I don’t know the city that well, I’ve lost my accent, and I had to bring my GPS from home just to be sure I don’t get lost in my old ‘stomping grounds’. I kind of feel like I grew up without Chicago…like a child who leaves behind her favorite stuffed animal for shoes and purses only to uncover her stuffed animal years later and be reminded of a time of simplicity; and knowing she can never go back.
I know my life now doesn’t mesh with my childhood. In many ways, it shouldn’t. I should change- that’s just a part of growing up. But it’s almost as if I’ve turned my back on my childhood and all that I knew. I don’t have that strong tie of loyalty to Chicago like many people have to their childhood hometown. It’s hard for me to understand why so many of the people I grew up with came back here after college. I loved growing up here, but there is so much to see and experience….I didn’t want to stay here when the opportunity came to move.
Not only have my surroundings reminded me of how much my life has changed, so has spending time with old friends. It’s harder and harder to maintain relationships with people when you don’t see or talk to them often. I spent some time with my brother’s friends, who are by association my friends here in Chicago. We don’t talk much between my visits but I’ve known these guys for close to ten years. Last night was different though. All I could think was how different our lifestyles are. I couldn’t think of anything in common we had…not jobs, not friends, not passions, not past times…nothing. And when they asked me questions about my life, it was hard for me to find the right words to explain my life while also using discretion. It’s a part of my life they’ve never seen. I’m not the same Stacey in Chicago as I am at home living my now-normal life. I’m quieter here, more hesitant. I feel like an outsider looking into a foreign world she doesn’t understand..a place that heartily eats of the fruit of this world with starving eyes. My childhood wasn’t like this and I think that’s part of why it’s weird for me to be here seeing this.
I’m not sure how to reconcile the Chicago I know and remember with the Chicago I’ve experienced this weekend. It’s like trying to put a square peg through a round hole. My old friends are different. The surroundings are similar, but different. My family is different. It’s just a reminder to me that I’m not who I was…that I am not supposed to be here…at least not right now.